WARNING: This fanfiction is NanoFate and it is rated M for strong and/or violent content and situations, as well as intimate scenes between two women. If this type of content is not to your liking, please do not read it.

DISCLAIMER: MSLN Characters belong to their rightful owners. All the situations and characters presented in this work are fictitious, any similarity with real, historical or present situations or individuals, it is not intentional.

TRANSLATOR'S NOTES: Thanks to all the readers so far that have been enjoying the story and to those that are following/liking it already, it's really motivating. Will be very glad as well to read your comments of course!

Anyways... on to the story now...


"Till the End of Times" by Aleksei Volken

Chapter 2. ENGAGEMENT

"You did the right thing, Fate."

Olivie Segbrecht was sitting inside the large tent where Fate had set camp, drinking from a golden cup while she looked at Fate walking in circles around the maps and strategy table. The blonde looked at ease, but Olivie knew her well and knew it was not the case.

For that first night, Fate and Signum decided it was not wise to stay at the house of the royal family of Nihon. In their advanced camp, they would be safer. Besides, the shadow of the mighty Belkan army at their backs was more than enough reminder to anyone that wanted to try anything.

To anyone but the Takamachi heiress.

Nanoha had maintained her defiant look up to the end, even when Fate said goodbye to her future… political family, she was almost sure the young woman had contained the urge to spit on her face.

"I'm not that sure aunt Olivie," Fate said sadly, finally stopping her pacing and looking without really paying attention to the scattered maps and rested her hands on the table in an almost defeated look.

"Your mother would be very angry at you if she saw how you are handling the most important commitment in your life."

Fate looked at her aunt. Olivie Segbrecht was a middle-aged woman, practically the same age as her mother, but her facial features made her look younger. Ten years of campaign and the pain of her husband's death had permanently affected both Precia's character and expression. Fate was still able to remember when she had been a loving and gentle mother, but there was not much left of that person anymore.

Even if, to a stranger's eye, Olivie's words could be mistaken for criticism, they were not. Fate suspected her aunt did not agree with many of her mother's decisions but the only thing she could do was to advise her to the best of her extent, as her official spokeswoman, her cousin, and… someone who cared very deeply about her.

"I know, it's just that I had never done this before, aunt Olivie, I…" Fate stood upright and unsheathed her sword extending it before her. "I have fought lots of times, hundreds of times. My enemies, powerful or not, always had the alternative to fight and even to decide how to die. I haven't once killed for pleasure."

Fate sheathed her sword back. "Now I feel that is exactly what I am doing. We have not left them any choice. If I were in their place, I would rather die in the war."

"You are a warrior Fate and you would be deciding only for yourself. They are thinking about their country, all their people. Not many rulers do that."

Fate pondered the words her aunt had just said and the implications they carried. Was she implying her mother did not think about the Belkan people when she made her decisions?

"Empires are usually not known for taking into account the countries they… incorporate Fate, the Regent of Nihon took a very difficult decision thinking of his country, and you always treated him with respect. Just like you do on the battlefield."

"My mother would also disapprove…"

Olivie stood from her chair and walked towards Fate. Both women resembled each other very much; they shared much more physical traits than Precia shared with her own daughters. They both had long blonde hair and were fair-skinned. However, unlike Fate's, Olivie's eyes were of a deep blue shade.

"Your mother is doing everything on her hands to guarantee the position of the family and protect your father's lineage. Maybe she has not been listening to the best advice during the last years but she has kept her promise to consolidate the empire. You will have the hardest tasks and should learn from your mother's mistakes to avoid doing them yourself. I truly believe this allegiance with Nihon can be much more beneficial than you can imagine."

"She hates me, aunt Olivie," Fate said, looking at the elder woman.

Olivie smiled thinking how much Fate resembled her father. They were both inherently good people upon which a great responsibility had been bestowed without asking for it, without even wishing for it. After all those years, Olivie had almost forgiven Enzo for all the pain he had caused her…. Even if it had been unintentional, and the truth was that she, despite everything, loved her two nieces a lot and worried about them, particularly about Fate.

"A few moments ago, you said that you'd rather die in battle than accept conditions such as the ones they are accepting. Don't you think that is exactly what that young woman is doing? In a way, she is the only one that will fight for her country, Fate."

The warrior frowned thinking about her aunt's words.

"It's not that she hates you in particular, she doesn't even know you. She hates what the Belkan Empire has done in the last few years and what we are doing to her country."

"She will probably also hate what I will do to her," Fate said grimly.

Olivie sighed. She could not question Fate's words. It was widely known in Dinsmark that the royal heiress had always favored women and to them, just as Fortis Huckebein had made it clear to the shocked Takamachi family, it was irrelevant. Many noble families had their daughters in mind, hoping they would make imperial consort since Fate had come of age, and was also a respected warrior in the battlefield. For the Belkans, the most important thing was heirs and allegiances. Olivie knew it very well. The Hegemon could have as many spouses, male or female, as the Hegemon wanted or deemed necessary. The Hegemon's power was absolute even in that sense.

"You will have to give her time, Fate."

"Her situation won't change over time, aunt Olivie. She will probably even hate me more afterwards..."

Olivie took her niece by her arm, keeping her close in an affectionate way leading her out of the tent to walk.

"Whatever Nanoha Takamachi comes to feel about you once she becomes your wife, will entirely be up to you Fate. Maybe you should let her know who you really are. I don't want you to think it will be easy, she has plenty of reasons to hate Belkan lineage… our lineage. You will have to overcome her prejudice and show her you are not what she thinks of you."

Fate and Olivie walked by the middle of the camp. It was a moonless night and the stars shined brightly. A few fire camps were still lit and the guard remained in alert mode.

"That is the problem right there, Aunt Olivie. I cannot just be Fate with her...I have to be the heiress of the Belkan Empire," Fate said with a pronounced ironic emphasis, that carried the weight of the grief she felt. "Maybe… maybe I will end up being exactly what she already thinks of me."

Olivie stood in silence. Fate was taller than her by over a head of difference and being with her was very easy. She emanated security, confidence, gentleness, warmth... but also strength and determination. Her aunt clearly understood why Fate was so attractive to women even without trying. She embodied the perfect combination of male and female qualities in one person. A person that was also very attractive and sensual. If Fate had been male, he would probably have had a lot of success with both sexes; but being a woman, Fate was almost perfect.

Olivie doubted that Nanoha Takamachi would hate Fate for long… even when she was the heiress to the most powerful empire of the world.

— X —

Two days and counting from that date and they would travel towards Dinsmark and nothing in Nanoha's life would ever be the same.

"Maybe she's not that bad, you know?"

Miyuki was sitting next to Nanoha in the latter's bedroom, helping her pack. Her sister did not really need much help.

She was taking the bare essentials.

None of her favorite items, like the parchments she enjoyed studying so much, paintings or furniture. Regarding her wardrobe, she was taking her most basic and simple outfits; none, absolutely not one of her most beautiful ensembles.

It seemed as if she were going to a convent. Or prison.

Miyuki tried to change her mind to no avail, to take something with her that would make the days more bearing. Something that would remind her of her country and its love for her homeland. But she refused.

For her, it was like actually going to prison. There was nothing, not that she wanted anything, that would make her days easier. She needed her hatred intact and raw.

Nanoha did not give an answer to Miyuki's comment.

She did not care if the Belkan heiress was not as bad as she thought. She did not care at all how she was. The only thing she knew was that her life had stopped belonging to her just to be given to her and that the Belkan Empire not only took over her but of her whole country. Her 'marriage' was just the symbol that legalized that barbaric act.

"Hayate-chan will go with you as Nihon's representative and as your personal companion. Dad negotiated that with Testarossa-san yesterday. Shamal will also go as your personal physician."

During the last two days Fate, along with her representatives, had negotiated for long hours with Shiro and his counselors. All but Nanoha, the entire Takamachi family had been present all the time.

Hayate and Shamal Yagami would be the only two people from Nihon joining Nanoha to share her 'sentence' with her. At first, Fate had only considered for one person to accompany Nanoha, but in the end, she agreed to Shiro's request.

"Testarossa-san?" Nanoha said, dragging the word with disgust, barely refraining from bickering at her sister on how easily she had subdued herself to the Belkan dominion. It was pointless. She could not refrain from expressing her anger. "And just because of that, you claim she is a good person?" she ended without looking at her sister.

"I didn't say she was a good person. I said she may not be that bad…" Miyuki clarified. "She did not have to accept any of dad's requests, and yet she did."

"Maybe you should marry her."

Nanoha had not finished her phrase and she regretted it immediately. It was not fair to her sister. But the situation was not fair for her either.

"I already tried…" Miyuki answered without flinching or taking offense. "Unfortunately, she won't accept anyone who is not the official heir. I asked dad to change the designation of heirs, but it's not that easy. The youngest daughter has been the heiress for the last four hundred years and it's not easy to change something so stagnated. At least not this quickly."

Nanoha felt overwhelmed. Miyuki had spoken casually as if they were talking about the weather, but Nanoha knew her better than that, and she had been very serious about it. Very serious. She had really tried to take her place in the conquest the Belkan were imposing over them.

Both women looked at each other. A couple of discreet knocks on the door prevented them from saying anything else.

Miyuki stood up and opened the door just to find Hayate and Fate.

"Nanoha-san, Miyuki-san, good morning. May we come in?" Hayate greeted them as Fate stood upright very still behind the counselor.

Nanoha remained silent and simply turned her gaze towards the balcony. Every time she found herself near Fate she avoided to the possible extent any visual contact with her and would not speak to her directly. When she did, it was not to say anything nice. She hated the way in which she, for no apparent reason, got nervous under the crimson look of the Belkan warrior.

Miyuki silently stepped aside to let them in. Hayate, followed by Fate, entered the room. The second one kept distant, showing some reserve towards Nanoha's space.

"Testarossa-san wishes to leave at the first hour the day after tomorrow and she wishes to know if it is possible for you, Nanoha-san," Hayate explained.

"If it is, I need to know when your luggage can be taken to be loaded on the transport carriages," Fate intervened without waiting for Hayate to finish. Truth be told she felt uneasy being around Nanoha and she wanted that encounter to be over as soon as possible.

Nanoha did not like a single bit of Fate's rush but pressing her lips tightly stopped herself from answering.

"That is one day… earlier than agreed… isn't it Testarossa-san?" Miyuki answered, even though she knew the question had not been directed towards her.

"Almost…" Fate said, keeping herself from saying that she was well aware of it and that she was sorry for it because she really was sorry. "I thought it would be best to have more time to get to Dinsmark so that… Takamachi-san could have more time… to adapt."

The real reason was that a messenger had arrived less than an hour ago to General Graham's campsite with his horse almost busted from the non-stop ride with an urgent message from the Hegemon to Fate. The order was that she was to return as soon as possible to Dinsmark, taking all cautionary measures. Unclear and vague, but disturbing. Fate knew that very few things caused a reaction in her mother, and whatever had triggered her sending the message, it had definitely been for a reason.

"You are a terrible liar," Nanoha finally spoke to her with a daring flare in the blue of her eyes. For her, one day or two, or a month, did not change the result. "You do not have to try and lie about a fake interest that you are very far away from feeling… Testarossa-san," she repeated the same inflection of her voice loaded with disdain that she had just used moments before alone with Miyuki. "A true warrior would not need to lie."

Fate clenched her fists. The woman was insulting her to her face. No, actually... she had not done anything besides insulting her since the very first moment they had met. Fate had only tried to make things less difficult for her. Very slowly, the blonde stepped forward to her bride to be, with their gazes intertwined in a duel of will powers. Fate stopped just an inch away from Nanoha, and then looked at her intently.

Miyuki and Hayate looked at each other troubled.

Shiro had made a great effort when negotiating with Fate to guarantee Nanoha's wellbeing. If he could not guarantee her happiness, he, at least, wanted to make sure she was safe and protected. That she would have a chance of surviving.

But Nanoha could ruin everything in two seconds.

"What exactly did you mean with your last comment… Takamachi-san?" Fate asked without averting her fixed look from Nanoha's.

Nanoha felt a shiver running down her back. Fate's eyes were cold and hard when she asked her the question. It was a threatening look, but she was not going to be intimidated, by Fate or anyone else for that matter.

"Exactly what I said," Nanoha answered stubbornly. "Are you telling me that besides a liar you are also deaf? Or you just lack comprehension skills?"

With a surprisingly quick movement, Fate grasped Nanoha's arm, violently pulling her towards her. Her intention was purely physical and not sexual, even if the gesture could have been mistaken for it. Nanoha was being inflexible and obtuse and Fate knew she had to set boundaries or Nanoha would have it really difficult in Stier Castle, where her mother and some other members of the court would not tolerate such attitudes. At least not in the way she had been tolerating them.

Nanoha, on the other hand, had to bite her lips to avoid showing the pain Fate's grasp was causing her. She would surely end with a bruise above her elbow, where Fate's fingers kept gripping her arm hurting her.

"Mind your words, Takamachi-san… no one is exempt from punishment in Dinsmark," Fate warned her grimly.

"Is that a threat… or a promise Testarossa-san? Or do you mean an even greater punishment than having to marry you?"

Miyuki and Hayate both covered their mouths in sync. Nanoha was doing everything in her power to get a rise out of Fate.

Fate almost shook Nanoha and tightened her grip. Nanoha pressed her lips but did not back down. Finally, using all her will to avoid pushing her back with all her strength, Fate released the grip on her and turned around to face Hayate with a harsh voice.

"By sundown, someone from my guard will come to pick up your belongings, Yagami-san. Have them ready and altogether. We depart at sunrise."

After saying that, she left the bedroom not saying another word and without turning back.

"Are you out of your mind, Nanoha?!" Miyuki snapped at her as soon as Fate was away enough. "That woman has the destiny of our country in her hands. And not to mention your life, by the way."

"Don't you think I am well aware?!" Nanoha countered sourly.

"You don't behave like it."

"Nanoha-san, Miyuki-san," Hayate tried to reconcile them. "Let us all settle down, please."

For a while, Miyuki and Hayate tried to reason with Nanoha and change her mind, yet the red-haired would not budge. At last, one argument had Nanoha speechless and thoughtful.

"Shamal and I will be going with you, Nanoha, and in a way, we will share the destiny you choose. It might not seem to you under this obligated twist of events your life has gone through, but you can choose. You can choose how to live it, you can choose the attitude to face it. If you choose to die, it is quite certain we will share that fate."

Both women indicated they would leave her be, to finish packing, although what they really meant is that they would leave her to her thoughts. Both women knew Nanoha had a difficult time conceding or admitting mistakes.

Hayate and Nanoha had grown up together. Hayate's mother had been close friends with Momoko, as Hayate was with Nanoha. They were both the same age and had shared many joyful times together. When her mother died, Shiro and Momoko took in the two Yagami sisters as if they were their own, and when Hayate aspired to be a counselor to the court, she earned it by her own merits.

Shiro could not be grateful enough for it, because now, under their predicament, his daughter would not be alone but would have the company that had all his trust and that was more than resourceful.

Both Yagami sisters knew the risks at stake joining Nanoha to Dinsmark and yet neither harbored any doubts.

After a long while, Nanoha had to accept Hayate was right. Her defiant smart-ass remarks did not help at all. They would not change her circumstances or her country's. And they could, however, put her friends at risk once they were on their enemy's territory.

At that moment, she decided to shift her strategy. She would stand up and face the Belkan woman, without insults, but rather with determination and courage, like probably no one had ever stood up against her. She would show her what dignity really meant.

And she tried not to think about how she would do that on her wedding night.

Since the very first moment she realized the Belkans would not call off the promise of engagement upon finding out the heir was female, and that the wedding plan was still ongoing, that thought could not leave her mind. She cursed herself for having no knowledge in such matters and again for not having seized the opportunity on the days before the invaders' arrival, to fix' her situation in that sense. She would now lose her virginity in a hostile environment, in an unknown place, and with the person she loathed. Everything she had ever dreamed of.

She understood everything Miyuki and Hayate kept telling her, but neither would have to endure what she would have to endure.

Miyuki had laid it out very clearly. That woman would rule their country.

That woman would control her destiny.

No, that woman already had control over her destiny.

And Nanoha would have to find a way to survive it.

— X —

"Are you sure about this, Fate? We could leave tomorrow and still make in on the timeframe stipulated by your mother."

Signum and Veyron walked side by side with Fate, with another six men behind them.

"Of course she is sure, Captain, food in this hell hole is terrible, the heat is suffocating, and the dust… the fastest we get out from this forsaken place, the better."

Veyron had just returned from his temporary exile with Graham's troops, still with Fate's threat hovering over his head. Both warriors glanced at him and he raised his hands in peace.

"Yes, Signum. I am sure. Not for the reasons Veyron indicates, though. She…" Fate paused trying to find the correct words. "I already said we would leave tomorrow, so we leave tomorrow."

Veyron smirked. "At last, you set some boundaries, Fate, to that…"

"Veyron," Fate broke him off. "Not a single word. She will be my wife, whoever likes it or not, I will not tolerate a single offensive comment towards her. Have I made myself clear?"

"Clear as crystal, Fate… you might wanna send notice to her too since she refers to you with the most offensive possible comments."

Fate clenched her fists and walked faster towards Nanoha's room.

Veyron was right.

During the negotiations, Shiro had asked her a word in private. Just the two of them. Fate's counselor hesitated but she agreed. In the end, Fate realized the one making the petition was not Nihon's Regent but the father of the woman she would marry. The only thing Shiro had asked from Fate was for her to protect his daughter,

He asked in such a way that made it impossible for Fate to refuse. Her conscience dictated her not only to accept but to promise this man she would do it.

She could try to fulfill the promise she had made to Shiro but there was nothing she could do if his daughter insisted on insulting her. No Belkan would tolerate a foreigner insulting the heiress, the Hegemon, or the Belkan Empire. None.

Unfortunately for her, she would have to talk to the girl and make her understand.

When the group arrived at their destination, the bedroom door was already opened for them. Nanoha, Hayate, and Shamal were inside waiting.

In front of them laid six small trunks and a large one with intricate inscriptions on it.

Hayate bowed to welcome the group, indicating their luggage was ready. The men accompanying entered and moved the largest one without any regard to its contents.

"Careful…" Shamal started to say when Veyron abruptly interrupted her with his arrogant tone, eyeing her carefully from top to bottom.

"How dare you try giving us orders, woman?" Veyron approached the short-haired blonde and stomped his boot on the trunk Shamal was just pointing at. "We are warriors, not servants. If you don't like our ways you can carry it yourself to Dinsmark."

Before Fate could even react, Signum placed herself between Shamal and Veyron giving her comrade a severe and annoyed look.

"This is medical material, Counselor Huckebein," she said looking at the inscriptions. She called two of her men and indicated to them, "Bring it carefully to the carriage where we have our own fragile equipment."

After looking at each other for a few seconds, Veyron removed his foot from the trunk so Signum's men could carry it.

None of the three Nihon women made any comment about it.

"Take the rest and place them in my personal carriage," Fate ordered before Veyron got any more ideas. "Go with them, Veyron. Make sure everything is ready to leave tomorrow before the first ray of sunlight."

Veyron took a good look at the three women again. Nanoha felt disgusted by the way Fate's counselor was looking at her, but she refrained from saying or doing anything about it. It seemed like he was undressing all three of them just by looking at them.

After Veyron left with the others, Signum turned to Shamal.

"I will personally make sure the trunk arrives safely, milady," she stated in a clear, modulated voice.

Shamal found herself at a loss for words. The eyes that were looking at her, in a unique shade of blue, were the most attractive ones she had ever seen in her life.

"Th-Th... thank you," she barely managed to mumble before Signum bid her leave to follow the men carrying the luggage she had promised to keep intact.

"I would like to speak to Takamachi-san alone, Yagami-san," Fate said in a serious voice to Shiro's counselor. It did not go unnoticed to Nanoha that she had not asked her if they could talk. She was being treated like an object over which others took decisions.

Hayate and Shamal looked at each other. Hayate knew she could not tell Fate that she had to make the request to Nanoha and she also knew Nanoha did not want to speak to Fate. Least of all, alone. She had a huge dilemma in her hands. Besides, Fate had not asked her. She had expressed her wish, respectfully yes, but that wish was also a command.

"Fine," Nanoha said. Hayate's seconds in silence had been enough for her. She knew Hayate could not refuse and that Fate's request was not a request.

The Yagami sisters bowed slightly indicating they would wait outside and closed the door behind them.

For a few seconds, Nanoha avoided moving or looking at Fate, repeating to herself that she did not have to do anything. It was the warrior, the one who had requested to 'talk to her. She could try.

Fate remained silent and still in her place, until Nanoha could not bear it anymore and raised her head to look furiously at Fate, but contained herself before asking the question. Keep her dignity. She was determined to do it.

She held Fate's gaze. Having the blonde so near to her triggered goosebumps in her skin and her stomach. "Pure repulsion. Get it together, Nanoha. You cannot let her see she has any effect on you. Not even a negative one," she thought to herself, breathing in deeply to control herself.

Once she realized she had Nanoha's attention and that there was no lash out from her side, Fate finally decided to speak.

During the previous days, the thought about the promise she had made to Shiro had not left her mind. After Veyron's earlier comment, she decided to talk to Nanoha and make her understand the situation they were living in.

"I don't wish for this either, Takamachi-san," she started, looking for the right words.

"What? Forcing me into marrying you? Or invading my country?" Nanoha cursed herself for not being able to keep her mouth shut, but it was too late. She had blurted it.

Fate snorted and shook her head. If Nanoha ever made that comment in front of the Hegemon… or any other of the ones she always seemed to have ready to shoot...

"There are matters that escape our own power to decide. Even though we are both heiresses, and especially because we are, there are things we cannot choose."

Nanoha was surprised to see Fate not reacting violently as she had done that morning. Her arm still hurt where she had grabbed her.

"Dinsmark will be a place as harsh and as hateful as you will want it to be…" Fate doubted but ultimately decided it was best for her to know. "Your father asked me to protect you, you know? And I promised him I would."

The look in Fate's eyes took Nanoha completely by surprise. The warrior was looking at her with serenity and a sense of deep sadness in her eyes.

"But I cannot protect you from yourself. If you insist on the attitude you profess towards anything Belka, you will put not only yourself at risk but also the lives of everyone you love."

Nanoha opened her mouth to reply but no words came out. What could she say? That she knew it already? That she was aware of the absolute Belkan power?

"I cannot stop you from hating me. But I would very much like, if possible, to prevent you from dying because of that hatred."

"You don't care if I die," Nanoha replied with disdain.

Fate pondered about it. In a way, she cared. If she did not, she would not be talking to her. But she could not explain that to Nanoha.

"I made a promise to your father."

"After arranging the conditions in which I become your property?"

Fate's look did not change nor did she avert her gaze. "Before. Before making any negotiations, that was what your father asked from me."

Nanoha remained silent. She could not be angry at her father. He had not had a choice either. Neither of them had. And apparently, neither had Fate.

"How can you do this…?" Nanoha finally asked. "Marrying someone you don't know? Isn't there anyone you care about? How can you accept it?"

Fate did not give an answer to any of those questions. Questions she had asked herself many times in the last few days.

"We will depart very early tomorrow, Takamachi-san, I suggest you rest as much as possible. It is not a long distance to travel, but we will do it as fast as possible. We have to arrive at Dinsmark at once. I suggest you consider everything I have told you about. It may help to make this... situation... less unbearable for you."

"Can you avoid invading my country?"

"No," Fate answered with a shaky voice.

"Then there's nothing you can do for me," Nanoha answered, averting her gaze.

Fate shook her head. She was expecting the girl's resistance. Her only hope was that the hardness of the trip and facing the reality at Dinsmark would make her reconsider her ways.

Or she was going to suffer much more than she expected.

— X —

At a normal pace, the trip going from Nihon to Dinsmark took about four days and about six to eight for a heavy army. An almost busted messenger on horseback would do it in almost two. Fate had forced everyone to make it in three days almost without any rest.

Much to everyone's surprise, Nanoha did not accept to travel inside one of the carriages as a damsel and went on horseback. She knew how to ride, and she was a good rider, having learned at a very early age. But she had never ridden a horse for over twelve straight hours under the scorching sun or the cold of the mountain at a nonstop pace. And as the terrain got higher in altitude and it turned steeper, as they neared Dinsmark, the cold was even harsher.

The first night at the campsite, she let herself completely fall inside the tent and Shamal gave her ointments and medicine to help her ease the pain, along with a reprimand, which had little effect, as she was again riding her horse the next morning.

Fate and Signum looked at her appreciatively. They never thought the girl would last the previous day's journey, least of all that she would return to continue. Veyron made fun of her as he watched her ass intensely with lewdness.

Nanoha endured, she would not allow any one of them to see weakness in her. Not even when she thought she would actually die, so she endured the tiredness, the pain, and Veyron's lustful glances.

As they arrived at Dinsmark by nightfall of the third day, Nanoha could barely stay on her saddle. What worried her the most was how she was going to be able to stand on her own feet once she dismounted the steed.

The valley where the city had been formed had a natural mountain barrier and was accessible by one heavily guarded path. The geographical inaccessibility of the Belkan capital had been, among other factors, the key to their power. No one was able to attack them and succeed.

Dinsmark's Valley was also rich in water and resources, they would weather out any siege and turn the tables in their favor. The besiegers ended up besieged. The warm season was very pleasant, but also very short, and anyone that tried to attack them in that time of the year, discovered, lethally too late that the Belkan summer was too short.

Dinsmark was impenetrable and represented the invulnerability of the mighty Belkan Empire.

Just in the very same way she had seen the mighty column of the Belkan army approaching Heian-kyo, Nanoha could not help but be impressed again when they came out of the mountain's passage and the Belkan capital opened before her eyes.

Compared to Dinsmark, Heian-kyo did look like a dusty run-down town. And she had the same impression when she set her eyes for the first time on the impressive castle located in the middle of the city. As they descended and got closer, the construction became even larger.

Built with solid rock by the first Hegemon, hundreds of years ago, fortified and expanded by his successors, it was the symbol of the city and the pride of the Belkan people.

A small escort awaited them at the entrance of the castle. Fate led at the forefront, always flanked by Signum and Veyron. The three riders gracefully dismounted, as if they had just gotten on their horse.

Every single part of Nanoha's body hurt like hell, some parts she was not even aware she had. Shamal and Hayate hurried out of the carriage that had taken them, and even as they were also numb by the difficulty of the journey and the cold, went to help her friend and ladyship.

Olivie Segbrecht exited her personal carriage as well and in silence looked at Fate and then at Nanoha. To everyone else, it might have been just a reconnaissance look, but Fate understood what her aunt meant.

Nanoha tried with a lot of effort for her legs to stop shaking, but she could barely stand up. The last part of the journey had gotten the best of her. Even as her will insisted on standing up, her legs were not complying. Had it not been for Hayate and Shamal and because she was still holding on to the reins of her horse, she would be lying on the floor.

She cursed her recklessness and her weakness when a soft voice behind her got her attention.

"It has been a rough journey," Fate said, "and you have overexerted yourself, I will take you to our chambers."

Before Nanoha had any moment to protest, Fate picked her up and carried her in her arms without expecting an answer and walked towards the entrance of the castle.

"Put me down, right now," Nanoha hissed, squirming in Fate's arms and deeply blushed by the embarrassment of being carried by her enemy like that. It was just too humiliating.

"There is nothing to be ashamed of," Fate whispered to her, holding her even tighter in her arms and looking intently into her eyes. "Very few people can make the journey in the way we did, Takamachi-san, take a look at my own soldiers. They are tired and no one is making fun of you."

Nanoha looked around and realized Fate was right. The soldiers looked exhausted and no one was laughing. Not even Veyron.

Fate continued walking again, with Nanoha still in her arms, but a little more at ease; Hayate and Shamal followed them a little behind them and along Olivie who, with a certain reserve, stayed even more behind from the group.

As she walked past Signum, Fate gave her some instructions and continued her way.

Hayate had noticed long ago, that warrior was Fate's person of trust. The man called Veyron was her friend, for inexplicable and dark reasons, but the one she trusted blindly was Signum.

She had also noticed the way that warrior in particular looked at her own sister. Fate had imposed an almost non-stop relentless pace for all the trip and, whether under Fate's orders or by own initiative, Signum had made sure, regularly, that the three of them were alive and 'safe'. That reassured her a little. Particularly because it had not escaped her to notice the way counselor Veyron Huckebein looked at them, Nanoha in particular.

They were going to need allies.

The counselor had not been able to assess the blonde woman that resembled Fate so much. Olivie. They were surely related, that was obvious. She also held a position of power. She could not tell, however, whether she could be an ally or not. She was reserved and aloof, that was all she could tell about her at that moment.

Fate decided to enter Stier Castle using one of the side doors, so she could get inside as surreptitiously as possible and hopefully avoid finding anyone from the court, or even worse, may the Gods forbid, her mother.

The Gods never seemed to be very favorable with her wishes.

As soon as they arrived at one of the lateral hallways they had no option but to take, a deep yet soft voice was heard.

"We did not expect you so soon, Fate."

Precia Testarossa, along with some members of the court stood regally in front of them.

Fate bowed and took a knee on the ground. Nanoha felt the grip on her body grow stronger.

Hayate and Shamal, realizing Olivie and all the other members of the court imitated Fate's gesture, did the same.

"Your Highness…" Fate said. "We have tried our best to be back as soon as possible."

At the low height they were, the only thing Nanoha was able to see was the purple and white tunic covering the Hegemon's ankles and she did not want to raise her head to look at her from, below, so she kept her head upright but without looking at the Hegemon.

"Do I need to remind you that the heiress to the Empire must not abase herself... Fate? Many servants are up to the task if your future wife cannot withstand a single three-day trip."

Fate felt Nanoha wriggling like a fish in her arms and held her tighter against her as she stood up.

"Takamachi-san did the journey on horseback so we could advance faster," Fate replied as the sole explanation. Precia arched a brow. She had never been a warrior herself like her daughter was, but even she knew what a horseback ride for three non-stop days meant.

Once Fate was back on her two feet, Nanoha found herself looking at the golden and ruthless eyes of Precia Testarossa. The Hegemon to the most powerful empire the world had ever known. Precia was looking at her as if she were a nauseating bug that had dared perch on her beloved daughter.

Behind the Hegemon, there were other people looking at her with equal disdain in their looks, except for one. She was not looking at her with disdain, but with worried eyes, but what had dumbstruck Nanoha was that said person was identical to Fate.

"Nonetheless, that's a task for servants, or slaves, Fate," the Hegemon declared with a deep voice without looking at Nanoha.

"She is my future wife, Mother," Fate insisted. "No one but I will carry her."

Without saying another word and without greeting Nanoha or anyone else with them, the Hegemon continued her way.

"I am on my way to the Throne Room. I want you and Olivie there as soon as I arrive."

Olivie signaled Fate to carry on while she walked behind Precia and her committee.

Alicia stayed and looked at Fate and at the girl on Fate's arms deeply worried. Nanoha was still flabbergasted from seeing them. Fate was taller but other than that, they were physically identical. Had it not been for their clothes being so different, she would hardly be able to tell one from the other.

Fate kept going, after greeting her sister with a slight movement of her head.

"I can continue on my own," Nanoha said, trying to get Fate's attention.

"We are already here," Fate indicated as Alicia opened one of the heavy wooden doors so they would come inside.

The room was much larger than the one she had in Nihon. Although she was having a hard time trying to call her parent's house the 'royal house' after realizing the size of the castle.

The decoration was sober and austere. I had two armchairs, a small table, and a very large bed over which Fate laid her gently.

"We have to hurry, Fate," Alicia told her visibly worried.

Fate took a last glance at Nanoha and assured her Signum would be there soon to see if they needed anything and finally left following her twin.

Nanoha laid in bed exhausted, utterly confused, largely due to everything that had happened and little less to the new ambient surrounding her. Fate had been thoughtful with her. She would never accept it out loud, but she had felt safe in her arms during that encounter with the Hegemon. The way in which she had confronted, so to speak, her mother carrying her in her arms to her chamber had... moved her…

"No, no, no," she thought, shaking her head. "You are tired and overwhelmed, but you cannot yield. It's some trick of hers to soften you."

Just as Fate had anticipated, a few minutes later Signum arrived with a group of men carrying their belongings. Hayate explained to the warrior the brief encounter they have had with the Hegemon and how Fate had been summoned.

It seemed Fate had planned everything very carefully, since moments later after their luggage had arrived, several maids bringing plates with food arrived so they could have dinner and also had with them the toiletries necessary so they could prepare them a bath.

Nanoha tried her best not to look impressed at the deployment of service going on. Soldiers carrying her belongings, maids tending to her, and preparing a bath for her. She had help in Nihon, but nothing remotely similar to what she was experiencing.

Finally, when her bath was ready and Nanoha wondered if Fate's trusted warrior would stay and inspect it too, a couple of knocks at the door were heard. Without waiting for Nanoha's authorization, Signum opened the door and a gigantic man, with skin toasted from the sun but with hair so light it was almost white entered the room alongside a young red-haired.

"You are finally here, Signum," the little one greeted her with a grumpy tone.

"Silence," Signum ordered and the red-haired obliged begrudgingly, crossing her arms at the chest. "Takamachi-san is our Marshal's bride-to-be. Fate, in person, has requested me to be in charge of her security and to make sure that nothing, absolutely nothing, bothers her. You two will remain as her permanent guard."

"What!?"

Every single person in the room frowned at the high-pitched shriek the newly-arrived red-haired had emitted. It had probably been heard all the way to the Throne Room.

"Fate has turned us into glorified nannies?" the girl asked in disbelief and looked at Nanoha with aversion.

"Vita!" Signum walked toward the small one with a menacing look. "Show respect. Lady Takamachi will be your ladyship as much as Fate is."

"I don't need anyone protecting me, Signum-san, especially not someone so evidently primordial," Nanoha said looking at Vita with the exact same aversion.

"By the Gods, are all redheads the same?" Hayate asked, looking at Shamal. She was too tired for those charades. "Nanoha-chan please…"

"Primordial? Who have you called primordial, you foreigner you Nan… Nantoka whatever your name is!" Vita glowed in rage looking at Nanoha and would have launched into her had it not been for Zafira, who very timely, stopped her from the collar neck of the simple armor they wore inside the palace. "Also, what the hell is primordial, Zafira?"

Nanoha found the opportunity to continue vociferating Vita indications to educate herself more before trying to be a warrior and ultimately tangled themselves into a chaotic discussion where neither was listening to the other.

"Enough!"

Signum regretted having to raise her voice in that way but madness was taking over.

"Vita, Zafira, you two will be in charge of Takamachi-san's safety. Period. And you will do so with respect and prudence. I do not want to hear ONE single complaint. If Fate does not whip you to death for disrespecting her bride-to-be, I will."

Vita shrunk under Signum's threatening look.

"She…she is Fate's fiancée?" Vita asked in disbelief.

"That's just what Signum said from the very beginning," Zafira replied under his breath.

"Oh, ok, I just thought she'd be prettier…" the small warrior said turning around. "Poor Fate having to deal with her."

Hayate and Shamal each grabbed Nanoha by one arm to prevent her from doing anything else.

Vita had barely stepped out when Zafira bowed reverently to Nanoha.

"Please excuse my sister. She might probably be, as you say, a bit primordial, but she is loyal to our Lady Fate and will protect you with her life if needed as it has been requested to her. Just like I will." The hunky man rose up tall as he was. "We will be outside at all times."

After Zafira exited, it was Signum's turn to apologize again in Vita's name and indicated to them she would return later to check on them.

When they were finally alone, Hayate and Shamal helped Nanoha out of her clothes and get into the water, which incredibly as it would seem, was still very hot. Both Yagami sisters had for themselves the connecting room. After reassuring them that she would be fine on her own, both women left to clean up as well.

At last, Nanoha had some time to be alone.

Along the journey, Hayate and Shamal tried to be with her as much as possible and they really did not get much time to rest. Nanoha was too busy keeping up with Fate's pace to be able to think about anything at all. So finally, she had a single, alone, and peaceful moment ever since they had left Heian-kyo.

Her home.

Saying goodbye to her parents had been touching but sober. None wanted to ask when would they see each other again or under what circumstances. No one wanted to ask what was going to happen. None wanted to cry.

For the very first time since she had left Nihon, Nanoha felt the sorrow and sadness engulfing her.

She was alone. In an unknown country with strange traditions and barbaric luxuries. That was all that Belkans were. They were ignorant wildlings that snatched others' richness with their power and that did not make them good people. All the contrary. They yearned for power and strength but actually lived as slaves under the tyranny of that woman she had just briefly seen.

A single tear ran down her cheek while thinking of her family, her friends, and her country. In everything she had left behind and which she would sacrifice herself to protect.

The door of her room opened at that moment and Nanoha, taken by surprise, shrieked, covering herself as much as she could under the water.

Fate, wearing her same travel armor and still without having cleaned up, entered the chambers closing the door behind her.

Under the light provided by several candles illuminating the room, Nanoha could tell she looked tired and worried.

"Are you not familiar with the common courtesy of knocking on doors to come inside chambers that are not your own?" Nanoha defied her. She was in a rather disadvantageous position naked in the bathtub, she was aware, but she would not let that discourage her.

"This IS my bedroom."

Nanoha was taken aback by Fate's answer. She never considered the possibility that the room was hers. Actually, she never thought they would share a bedroom before they…

Fate got closer to her and Nanoha shivered inside the water. They were not in Nihon, and with the safety provided there, anymore. They were now in Fate's homeland, in her castle, and in her bedroom.

For the very first time in her life, Nanoha felt vulnerable.

The communicating door to the adjoint bedroom opened and Hayate appeared by the threshold, barely wearing a light robe and also was astounded to find Fate there.

"Good evening, Yagami-san," Fate greeted her undisturbed. "Has everything gone well?"

"Yes…" Hayate replied without knowing what else to do. She could see the cry for help in Nanoha's look. "Everything has been very well, Testarossa-san, we thank you for your considerations."

Seeing Fate would not move or say anything else she dared ask. "Did you need anything, Testarossa-san?"

"What one wishes to do in their bedroom after a long trip," Fate responded looking alternatively at the two women.

Inside, Fate was deeply amused. She had finally managed to keep that woman quiet. She was quite beautiful, but every ounce of beauty came with a thrice of stubbornness. She had never met someone that truly hated her, and least of all for no apparent reason. Nanoha intrigued her and, she also had to admit, fascinated her very much. She had never met someone who resisted and fought back as she did.

"I understand your watch over your lady, Yagami-san. Can I have some privacy with my future wife?" Fate requested with extreme politeness yet emphasizing the possessive tone of her words.

Nanoha and Hayate looked at each other.

Without waiting anymore, Fate started to strip from her armor.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?" Nanoha questioned her forgetting about the formalities she was expected to address her fiancée.

"It's difficult to take a bath with the suit of armor still on," Fate explained very simply.

"A bath?" Nanoha repeated. Hayate was still standing with just one foot inside the room unsure to leave her friend.

"Yes. Is the water still hot or do I have to ask for more to be brought?" Fate asked casually.

Nanoha looked at her stupefied. That woman intended to take a bath with her.

"Absolutely not," Nanoha stated, finding her courage and her voice. "You cannot bathe with me Testarossa-san. I do not know what barbaric customs you have but this is unacceptable. You cannot..."

"I cannot?" Fate interrupted her with a soft voice, narrowing her eyes. Her look indicated she was able to do exactly as she pleased.

Hayate intervened, despite knowing they could die because of that.

"Testarossa-san, it truly has been an exhausting trip. I know that you, more than us, must be really tired and for what I have gathered, this is your room. In Nihon, we have other customs. Nanoha is your fiancée, but we are not used to... interacting in that way before marriage."

Fate looked at them with curiosity.

"We are not in Nihon anymore, Yagami-san."

Nanoha and Hayate were just starting to realize how brutally true that was.

"Wouldn't you rather for us get to know each other better before our wedding, Takamachi-san?" Fate addressed Nanoha. Her tone indicated that surely getting to know each other better had a very wide meaning for the Belkans.

Fate already knew what the answer would be, just as she anticipated the reaction to her actions and requests. Truth be told, she did not want to spend that night with Nanoha... in that way… but she wanted for Nanoha to understand the seriousness and the magnitude of the commitment she had agreed to.

Precia had been meticulously thorough with Fate after the meeting they had where she was informed of the reason she had to return to Dinsmark in such a hurry. Despite that problem, her mother merely saw Nanoha as a vehicle for her means. The only way she could truly be able to protect her as she had promised to her father was by submitting Nanoha solely to her own will.

Nanoha, could not under any circumstance challenge the Hegemon as she did with her, or she would end up dead even before they got married. Even after getting married, the young woman would have to bow down and hold back, or her mother would severely punish any insolence.

Despite what aunt Olivie had told her, Fate would have to force her into submission, and she would have to do it by all means necessary.

"I would rather not get to know you at all, " Nanoha replied. "I wish I had never even met you, but that is already impossible, isn't it?"

"That's right," Fate replied unabashed, dropping to the floor the elements of her armor as she stripped down.

"Testarossa-san," Hayate intervened again, this time completely entering the room. Judging by her interaction with Nanoha, Hayate noticed that Fate looked very different from the moment she had left them in that room hours before to meet the Hegemon. Yes, she was cold and brass as she had never seen her, but also… Hayate could swear she was worried, genuinely worried about Nanoha.

"Would it be possible, for tonight at least, for Nanoha to have the room for herself? Give her time to adapt, just as you mentioned back in Nihon?"

Fate frowned looking at Hayate who was already beside the bathtub where Nanoha was already starting to feel cold.

For a few seconds, Fate did not answer, as if actually considering Hayate's proposal. She walked towards the window and closed it, just to return back to her original position.

"What do I obtain in return?" she asked, looking at Nanoha.

Before the girl would say something reckless that would put them in even a worse position, Hayate answered. "What would you be interested in, Testarossa-san?"

Fate pondered for a second.

"Tomorrow is the official announcement of our engagement before the Hegemon and the Belkan court. If Takamachi-san promises to conduct herself as expected to my rank, honoring protocol and her position as my official fiancée… I will agree for her to have the room for herself tonight."

"Just for tonight? It's almost midnight!" Nanoha protested.

"Takamachi-san will behave tomorrow as you expect her to, Testarossa-san," Hayate announced, literally pushing Nanoha's head under the water to shut her up.

"Fine, early tomorrow one of my assistants will be here to explain the protocol and help you with the preparation of the ceremony."

Nanoha had not recovered from Hayate's ruse to keep her quiet when Fate was already out of the room.

"Linith! Bring my armor and the rest of the things I will need for tomorrow," she ordered as soon as she stepped out of her bedroom.

A very young girl entered to pick up Fate's armor and rushed to pick out necessities from her built-in-the-wall armoire.

It was until much later, already lying in bed, musing about everything that had happened since their arrival to the Belkan castle that Hayate finally understood what Fate had done.

Even without having agreed on it, they both shared the same purpose.

Protect Nanoha's life at all costs.

— X —

"Nanoha, we promised," Hayate kept reminding her friend in whispers as they drew near the grand Throne Room for the ceremony that would officialize her engagement to Fate Testarossa to the Belkan society.

Behind them, Shamal was whispering with Alto Krauetta, the young assistant Fate had sent to instruct them on the ceremony's protocol and what Nanoha was expected to do during it; also Vita and Zafira, the guardians Fate had assigned to her and which not left their sight for a second. After a "small" morning skirmish between Nanoha and VIta, they were finally keeping a tense peace between them.

It was almost time for the sunset. The Belkan performed their most important ceremonies either at sundown or at sunrise, and when it came to engagements... and weddings, they took place with the last sunlight of the day.

"What they want me to do is just humiliating, Hayate-chan. I won't do it, they can force me to do it, but it will be against my will."

Hayate could just not picture Precia Testarossa forcing Nanoha into doing anything. She could clearly picture her, however, grimacing derisively indicating she would be beheaded or fed to the lions; which by the way, she had actually heard roar early in the morning as Alto gave them a brief tour around the castle.

"It is noted, you will do it against your own will, but do it anyways Nanoha-san. It is too soon for our mission to fail."

"Our mission?" Nanoha asked. For the ceremony, she had been dressed in an elegant white kimono with blue and black rivets, very beautiful and one she was sure she had not packed. Surely her mother had managed for Hayate or Shamal to take it with them.

"Yes, your mission is to protect our country… mine is to make sure you don't blow yours and kill us all in the process. If you are rude to the Hegemon, not only will you end up as the next meal for the lions we heard this morning, but we will too. And the army we saw on our way here will sweep over Heian-kyo burning everything to the ground."

Hayate could be very clear when she set to.

Nanoha bit her lips and readied herself.

Besides the kimono, Fate's personal assistants had prepared her and groomed her for the occasion. Linith had widely praised her natural beauty and the color of her hair, while Alto explained to her that would be the last day she would wear oriental clothing. As soon as her engagement to Fate was official, she would only wear Belkan attire. The following day the preparations for the wedding would start.

To Nanoha, whatever she had to dress, did not matter at all. What did matter to her was everything she was going to give up when accepting that engagement.

After a signal from the guards, the colossal door opened for Nanoha to enter the hall, followed closely by Hayate, also dressed in a dark elegant kimono, who would be acting as the representative to Nihon's monarchy, giving Nanoha away.

Under normal circumstances, the father of the bride, or a brother would do it, but the Hegemon had explicitly made it clear that Nihon's Regents were not to leave Nihon under any circumstance.

As she walked the red carpet leading the way to the throne, Nanoha as many others before her, found it breathtaking. The room, even full of people, seemed impossibly large. The ceiling was so high that it was beyond reason how it was even constructed. The sidewalls, equally high boasted large windows ending in stylized peaks emulating the roof over their heads.

And all the way to the end, Nanoha could observe the Hegemon's golden throne where Precia was sitting. To her right, standing firm, was Fate, draped in an all-black outfit. When Nanoha was closer, she could distinguish it was actually a ceremonial armor, very light and with a red cape kept in its place with a pendant golden triangle under her neck. Fate had let her long golden hair down, cascading over her cape.

Nanoha could tell that was Fate, because the other one, her twin sister who she only knew was named Alicia, stood at Precia's left side wearing a white long dress, and her hair was tied in a simple do. Nanoha had not shared a word yet with her future sister in law.

As she got closer to her designated location in the room, Nanoha could feel her heart beating faster and stronger. She unconsciously looked for something, anything to hold on and keep her strength in that hostile environment and found herself locking eyes with Fate's.

"It has nothing to do with her," Nanoha repeated to herself as she kept walking, breathing in deeply to calm down but still looking at Fate's eyes. "She is part of all this madness, you will relinquish control of our life in one sentence. You already accepted it days ago, just do it, Nanoha."

Hayate, however, was not nearly as nervous as Nanoha was, and she could clearly notice the looks many women were giving to her friend as she advanced. There were some curious looks, of despise, even indifference… and then there were some, especially from some ladies of the court, that were downright murderous.

Hayate doubted that it was just because she was an outsider.

When they arrived at their designated spots, Nanoha stood still and with her face looking upwards for a few seconds. Too much for Hayate's sanity. She looked like a regal, majestic, and proud queen. But that room could only hold one queen.

Hayate noticed Fate inspiring deeply, and the Hegemon arch a brow… and she started running in her head over all the prayers to all the deities she knew.

For her own peace of mind, and Fate's, with a single graceful and elegant movement, Nanoha kneeled in the typical reverence from Nihon, bending over almost until her forehead touched the floor.

Nanoha's curtsy had been executed perfectly and Hayate did the same, so both women remained in that position, before the most powerful woman in the world. Alto had been very clear. They could not move or say a word until the Hegemon indicated it.

During seconds that seemed everlasting, they stayed in that position almost without breathing. Not a single sound could be heard in the throne room.

"What brings you here today?" Precia's thundering voice resonated asking the Belkan traditional formula.

"Nihon's constitutional monarchy humbly and respectfully presents its most beloved daughter, Takamachi Nanoha, heiress to the Regent dynasty of Nihon," Hayate answered in a firm voice following the script Alto had provided to them.

"Who represents her?"

"Yagami Hayate, Nihon's Court Counselor and spokesperson to the royal Takamachi family."

"What do you bestow?"

"The union of our kingdoms as part of the union of our kingdom's daughters."

Precia stood up and walked to the edge of the podium.

"What offers to this union Takamachi Nanoha, heiress to Nihon's dynasty?" Precia asked and Nanoha knew it was the signal for her participation. She would have to say the phrase that she would hate for the rest of her life but that was the reason she had come all the way. For that, had her sacrifice been decided.

"My life, everything I have and everything I am," she said, rising up as Alto had instructed her and as they had practiced all morning. Nanoha had to restraint herself from not raising her head up or her gaze higher than Alto had indicated and attempt to challenge the Hegemon with her look.

"The Belkan Empire is pleased by your offering. On behalf of Fate Testarossa, heiress to the Empire, I accept this union," Precia stated, extending a hand towards Fate, who moved from her place and taking her mother's hand, stepped down the podium with her to where Nanoha and Hayate were kneeling.

Fate felt her stomach churning.

Nanoha was right, that ceremony was completely humiliating. She had seen several occasions in which members of the court married, and certainly most of those marriages had been arranged like hers and for the benefit of the empire, but none had been so humiliating as this one. Everyone had gotten something out of these'matrimonial arrangements'. This was the first time Fate saw it happening in such a one-sided way...in a totally abusive way.

No wonder she hated them. No wonder she hated her as well because of that.

When Precia and Fate reached to where Nanoha was, the Hegemon extended her left hand for Nanoha to take. She bowed again before resting her right-hand fingers over the royal palm that felt unnaturally cold to her touch.

Precia pulled Fate's hand in her hand and joined the women's hands.

"Your engagement has been accepted," she sentenced and then turned around to go back to her throne.

Until the Hegemon was sitting on her throne, Fate helped Nanoha stand up and stayed there, standing in front of her mother.

"The wedding will take place in one week starting today, at sundown of the day of the full moon."

With that sentence from the Hegemon, their engagement was official.

— X —